The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★½

The inspiration behind George Lucas' Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress also happens to be arguably the most mainstream film of Akira Kurosawa's legendary filmography. A slight departure from his poetic meditation on the human condition, the film's fun & lighthearted tone still retains many qualities that are best associated with his works.

The story is narrated from the perspective of its secondary characters with the theme of greed taking precedence but it's presented in an amusing fashion instead of serious contemplation. Kurosawa still maintains stringent control over the technical aspects, executing them with flair to deliver a spectacle that aptly balances action, drama & comedy.

The film also marks Kurosawa's first stint with the widescreen format which provides this period epic its sweeping grandeur but it is the small details & episodic moments that leave a larger footprint. Toshirō Mifune is brash & brawny as expected but he is often matched by Misa Uehara's fiery performance, while Minoru Chiaki & Kamatari Fujiwara are brilliant together in their comic relief roles.

Overall, The Hidden Fortress is a competently crafted & confidently directed period piece that promises a ride full of action, adventure, humour & thrills, and delivers it in satisfying doses. Though not as accomplished as the director's finest efforts, this jidaigeki still exhibits more depth & richness in its plot & characters than most of its counterparts, and is worth checking out. Definitely recommended.

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